As one of Vancouver’s historic sites, we celebrate Canada Historic Places Days, July 4 to end of August!
Celebrate and Explore History in Your Backyard! …and enter a selfie contest for a chance to win $1,000.
Looking for a reason to get out of the house and enjoy some beautiful summer weather? Come explore your local historic sites, like our 1912 heritage home, and take advantage of the opportunity to win $1,000 for yourself and for Historic Joy Kogawa House!
All you have to do is take a selfie and post it on social media with #historicplacesday, tag us, and tag and follow @nationaltrustca. Spread the word, because the more submissions posted, the more chances for the $1,000!
In posting, you give the National Trust for Canada and HJKH permission to use your content in promotional material.
Jack Long / Office national du film du Canada. Photothèque / Bibliothèque et Archives Canada / PA-142853
Japanese Canadian Sites in BC: Plan a history staycation!
Check out www.historicplacesday.ca, type the keywords “Japanese Canadian history” to do a filter search and they will pop up! For a weekend trip, visit Tashme and Lillooet or plan a longer road trip to the ruggedly beautiful Kootenays to see the roadside history signs marking the camps where the largest concentration of Japanese Canadians were interned (close to 10,000).
Japanese Canadian Sites in Vancouver: Historic bike ride!
Become an “architourist” to experience Vancouver on your bike. Take a selfie at every stop! This route begins at Historic Joy Kogawa House and ends at Vancouver’s newest national historic site, the Vancouver Japanese Language School and Japanese Hall on Alexander Street in Historic Japantown. Or you can start there and continue west to Stanley Park and then south to Historic Joy Kogawa House. Thank you, Vancouver Japanese Language School and Nikkei National Museum, for contributions to the route plan!
Bike Route of Japanese Canadian Historical Sites
Follow this route on your own personal version of Google Maps using the addresses and locations shown below.
- 487 Alexander Street, Vancouver Japanese Language School and Japanese Hall
The Vancouver Japanese Language School was founded in 1906 in a newly constructed wooden building at 439 Alexander Street, right in the heart of Vancouver’s Powell Street neighbourhood. From the early 1880s, Japanese pioneers to Canada began to settle and work in the Powell Street area, which later became known as “Japan Town”. With the growth of more and more Japanese families in the area, the need for a school that taught Japanese and other general subjects for the children of immigrants grew. In 1905, under the guidance of Mr. K. Morikawa, Japanese Consul at the time, a steering committee consisting of members of the Japanese Canadian community was formed to establish a school which taught the Japanese language and other general subjects such as math, history and science. It became the center of the Powell Street Japanese Canadian community prior to World War II, with a student population of over 1,000 at the outbreak of the war.
- Powell Street Historic Japanese Canadian Neighbourhood
The Powell Street Historic Japanese Canadian Neighbourhood (Paueru-gai/パウエル街) has seen an ebb and flow of Japanese Canadian culture since the late 19th century. In 1877, the first groups of Japanese immigrants to Canada started what would eventually become a uniquely Japanese Canadian community around the Hastings Mill and Burrard Inlet waterfront. By the 1920s, Paueru-gai became known as the centre of Japanese Canadian economic activity and property ownership. Following the forced removal and wartime internment of all Japanese descendants in 1942, Paueru-gai experienced a period of neighbourhood vacancy and economic downturn; most returning Japanese Canadian residents chose to settle in other areas of Vancouver, and in communities like Steveston after the war. However, a few significant organizations such as the Vancouver Japanese Language School and Hall and the Vancouver Buddhist Temple remain as reminders of the former strength of the Japanese Canadian community in this neighbourhood. Significantly, there are a number of historic commercial buildings in the neighbourhood with Japanese Canadian ties to the past, a reflection of the economic prosperity and entrepreneurship of Japanese Canadians in the late nineteenth- and early-twentieth centuries in Vancouver.
Cycle west along Alexander Street to West Waterfront Road and follow the Sea Wall to Stanley Park
- Stanley Park (V6G 3E2) Japanese Canadian War Memorial
The Japanese Canadian War memorial in Stanley Park is a tribute to the Japanese Canadian soldiers who fought in wars for Canada. In particular, it is a lasting memory of the 190 men who answered the call of duty for Canada and to the 54 who laid down their lives in defense of freedom in World War I. After the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941, the light in the monument was extinguished, and was only re-lit in 1985.
- 2639–2743 Stanley Park Drive, SS Empress of Japan Figurehead (north Seawall)
A colourful monument to the SS Empress of Japan (also called the “Queen of the Pacific”), which crossed the Pacific Ocean more than 400 times. The figurehead was saved from being thrown away, restored by the Province newspaper, and placed in Stanley Park in 1927.
Continue around the Sea Wall to Beach Avenue and then over the Burrard Street Bridge to former Japanese Canadian sites in the Kitsilano neighbourhood.
- 1672 West 1st Avenue (between Fir and Pine) Kitsilano Japanese Language School
With the increase of Japanese Canadian families in British Columbia, there was a need for schools that taught the Japanese language along with English and other general subjects such as math, history and science to the children of immigrants. The schools often became the centre of Japanese Canadian communities. Kitsilano was the second largest Japanese Canadian community in Vancouver before the war, with close to 1,000 Japanese Canadian residents. In 1934, the Kitsilano Japanese Language School had a student population of 163. The local judo dojo was located in same building.
- 1701 West 3rd Avenue (at Pine) Japanese Church of Ascension
A religious place for Japanese Canadians who lived in the Kitsilano area of Vancouver prior to World War II. It is significant that the Japanese Canadian congregation planned, financed, and erected the church building, which opened on April 7, 1935. After internment and dispossession, the church was closed in 1942 and sold by the diocesan authorities, in this case the Anglican Church of the Diocese of New Westminster on July 6, 1945. Apologies for the sale of the church were made by the Diocese of New Westminster under Bishop Michael Ingham in 2010, and by the Church of Canada Primates in 2013.
Note that no existing buildings remain; all have been rebuilt in the Kitsilano Neighborhood. So don’t be confused when you see a completely different building along First and Third Avenues.
Add in Fairview sites to the east (Masuda House at 498 East 5th Avenue and Edamura House at 473 East 6th Avenue; see more info below) or continue south along Arbutus Greenway to Marpole.
- 1515 West 57th Avenue (at Granville) Shannon Mews
Financier Austin C. Taylor bought this estate in 1936, and lived here until his death in 1965. During the Second World War, Taylor was appointed chair of the British Columbia Security Commission, a provincial government agency created to manage Japanese Canadian internment.
- 1450 West 64th Avenue (between French and Cartier) Historic Joy Kogawa House
Childhood home of Japanese Canadian author Joy Kogawa, author of the novel Obasan. Joy Kogawa lived here from 1937 to 1942, when she and her family were forced into an internment camp in the Slocan Valley. Visit the cherry tree in the laneway round back.
- 703 West 70th Avenue (at Southwest Marine Drive) 40th Marpole Boy Scout Hall and Marpole Japanese Language School
The Marpole Boy Scout Hall and Japanese Language School was constructed by the Japanese Canadian community in the area in 1927. Initially, the building was located on Selkirk Street (between West 71st and 72nd Streets). Primarily used as a Japanese Language School, in 1934 it had a student population of 68. It was also the hub of community activities and a gathering place. The building was confiscated by the B.C. Securities Commission during internment beginning in 1942, changed ownership, and was moved several times over the years. It is significant that the building was able to maintain its role as an important social centre for the Japanese Canadian Community after internment ended. This building is a reflection of the once-thriving Japanese Canadian population in Marpole.
RETURN to HISTORIC JAPANTOWN and 487 Alexander Street Vancouver Japanese Language School and Japanese Hall
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- 2901 East Hastings Momiji Gardens
In 1942, wartime politics brought to a head mounting discrimination against some 22,000 innocent people of Japanese ancestry on this coast. Their properties were confiscated and sold without consent, and they were forcibly dispersed to internment camps in the B.C. interior and to farms in Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario. From March to November, 8,000 men, women and children were confined in livestock barns on these grounds before being relocated. Few voices opposed a federal government policy that denied civil liberties to Japanese Canadians until April 1, 1949 – the day they were finally free to return to the coast.
- 2901 East Hastings Forum
Designed by architect H.H. Simmons, the Forum was built in 1933 as a worker’s relief project. It is a large, open building along Renfrew Street used for indoor exhibits and commercial booths during the PNE Fair. In 1942, during the detention of Japanese Canadians, hundreds of bunk beds for men and boys over the age of 18 filled the forum exhibition hall. The capacity was 1212. Extra toilet facilities were quickly added to accommodate the men.
- 2901 East Hastings Livestock Barns
In early March 1942, hundreds of women and children were forced to live in the stench and filthy conditions of this building originally designed to house animals.
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HISTORIC FAIRVIEW AREA
According to the 1941 census, the Fairview Area (also known as Kawamuko, which meant “across the river”–a reference to False Creek) was home to the largest group of Japanese Canadians outside of Japantown on Powell Street. The Fairview Area was bounded on the east and west by Ontario and Cambie Streets and on the north and south by Third and Sixth Avenues. Within this neighbourhood lived more than 80 Japanese families.
- 1017 West 7th Avenue (near Oak Street), Takehara/Yada Apartments
Genya Yada and Rinnosuke Takehara built this tenement in 1912–1913 to house Japanese Canadian workers who laboured at the various mills in False Creek during the industrial boom in the early 20th century. It is the only workers’ tenement that has survived in Fairview Slopes. Also known as the “Long House,” at the street front, the building is two-storeys high but the structure drops down the hill in three masses, to four storeys in height on the lane. It stands alone in this neighbourhood as a reminder of the Japanese Canadian contribution to the growth of the lumber industry in the Pacific Northwest.
- 305 West 4th Avenue (at Alberta), Uno Confectionery
Home to a small grocery store that served the local Japanese Canadian community, this former corner store was the site of the race-based robbery-turned-murder of Asahi All-Star Yuki Uno on the evening of January 16, 1942. The wartime polarized Vancouver, according to journalist Stewart Muir in his six-part series Merciful Injustice.
Farther east past Main Street, two former Japanese Canadian homes still stand as private residences:
- 498 East 5th Avenue (Masuda House)
Between 1938 and 1941, Tokuhei and Seki Masuda lived in this lovely large house built in 1909 by J.B. Currie for $1,600. Tokuhei was a leader in the Japanese Canadian community who advocated for better schools in the rural areas and sought volunteers to organize Japanese language schools for the children. As chair of the Canadian Japanese Association, he supported the enlistment of Japanese Canadian men during the First World War, fought for the franchise, along with fair treatment in labour issues.
- 473 East 6th Avenue (Edamura House)
Kanechiro Edamura lived in this home with his wife, Toki Baba, from 1935 to 1942, when Japanese Canadians were interned during the Second World War. The second son of a family from Shiga prefecture, Kanechiro had immigrated to Canada in 1916 at the age of 14 and worked at Alberta Lumber Company as a planerman. He married Toki Baba in 1931. Toki had a barbershop at 2232 Main Street, while they brought up a family – Henry, Nancy, and May.
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- 6688 Southoaks Crescent, Burnaby (off Kingsway) Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre
Centre of excellence for Nikkei Japanese Canadian history for all Canadians and for many international scholars. The Centre consists of a 1,000-square-foot gallery space, archives in a vault, a resource centre, gift shop and three small office spaces. The Museum is the only National institution with collections and archives dedicated exclusively to Japanese Canadian culture and history.
The mission of the organization is to honour, preserve, and share Japanese Canadian history and culture for a better Canada. From early settlement in the 1870s through the Internment, and beyond to redress in 1988, the Museum fulfills its mission through its physical presence and an online database of the collection, which attracts scholars from all over the world.